Epic. Legendary. Great. Those are words that many would describe Super Mario 64 as, and they would say the same thing for Super Mario Galaxy. After all, Super Mario Galaxy is the spiritual sequel to Super Mario 64, so why would we expect anything less? The Wii's first true masterpiece has finally arrived, easily outdoing the great Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess in an almost flawless display of greatness. Welcome to the Galaxy!
Super Mario Galaxy starts with Bowser up to his old ways. Peach is the target of his affection once more, and in classic Bowser fashion, she's been kidnapped from her castle. Instead of just taking Peach, Bowser goes all Paper-Mario-like on us and lifts the castle into space. During the event, Mario is hurled into the cosmos away from Bowser, and thus begins his quest to save the princess.
Mario is awoken on a mysterious planet by a little white puffball, and it's not Mallow from Super Mario RPG! It's actually a Luma, the citizens on space that one day become galaxies themselves. They are essential new characters to the game, and they reside on the Comet Observatory, the main place linking all the levels in Super Mario Galaxy. It's home to Rosalina, the Princess of Space, who looks very similar to Princess Peach. Rosalina tells Mario that in order to save his special one at the center of the universe, the Power Stars must be recovered to power the observatory to travel to the center of the universe.
That's the basic gist of what the game is about in terms of storyline. For those who just want to forget the story and play, it's not a problem: Super Mario Galaxy does not shove the story down your throat. For those who do like a deeper background on the game, there's a Story Book that Mario can read through Rosalina, which adds a new dimension to the game. The story is always being expanded into something deeper.
So, Mario begins to explore space in order to retrieve those mystical Power Stars that we've really not seen since the days of Super Mario 64. And that, for the most part, is what Super Mario Galaxy truly is at heart. It's like Super Mario 64 with more levels, more enemies, and a few new abilities. The gameplay is very similar, but that's to be expected since both are hardcore platformers. It's fun, addictive, and easy to learn. It can get kind of repetitive towards the game since many levels require the same type of movements, but overall, it's the best we've seen in years. The moves and the way they work are much, much better than in Super Mario 64, and the vastness of the levels allow this to be used to its full potential.
The controls, on the other hand, are not quite up to the level that the gameplay is. So, what's the difference between controls and gameplay? Well, not much, but there is some difference. The controls in Super Mario Galaxy have the tendency to stick, especially when Mario moves from right side up to upside down. The Wii is not always able to pick up on it, and, for example, tilting the control stick up may make Mario move down when right side up. Of course, with the type of game it is, there's always going to be some of that, but I was surprised to see how many times the controls got stuck during the course of the game. Erratic is the best word to describe it, because one does not know when or when not they'll go haywire.
The motion sensor is used, but rarely, and that's a positive. Nintendo did not have the attitude of "we built the Wii with motion sensors, therefore, we're going to shove it down players' throats." The motion sensor is generally used for special galaxies, those that are supposed to be non-serious and are just there for fun, such as surfing an obstacle course. This allows the best of both worlds, because it's a great balanced. However, the motion sensor is not always the greatest - there are often times where the Wii will not pick it up exactly and the control of it may skew a bit and star to go sour causing different movements than what was intended.
One thing that's not sour is the visuals. Super Mario Galaxy shows the capabilities that the Wii has, because the graphics and visuals are amazing. The color contrasts are not like anything seen before in a Mario game - they are so incredibly bright, so incredibly vivid, and every single thing of multiple color has a perfect contrast. Almost everything is as smooth as can be, though there are some occasional visual glitches with the interaction between a character, most likely Mario, and the surroundings, whether they are levels or boundaries of levels.
The only visual thing that Super Mario Galaxy fails at is moving a character during a cut scene. Believe it or not, Super Mario Galaxy features actual cut scenes that develop the story. They don't really have special graphics or anything like that of a Final Fantasy X (Final Fantasy X has incredible special rendered graphics during their cut scenes), but they suffice except for when a character speaks. The movements of the character and his or her mouth is off, and when Bowser is seen, one would swear there's wind in space with his hair and eyebrows flying all over the place. There's not a whole lot of dialogue so it's not that bad and the visual imperfections are rarely seen.
And then there's the one thing that almost has no imperfections: the music. Never before since Super Mario Bros. 3 has there been a Mario platformer with the incredible soundtrack that can be found within Super Mario Galaxy. Every song, except for a very few, is orchestrated to the highest caliber and is composed with unseen greatness. Every single song that's found in the game is nearly flawless.
All the songs on the soundtrack set the mood for wherever they are found throughout the game. When there's a sad scene, there's a sad tune that hits every note perfectly; When there's a fast paced scene going on, there's fast paced music without the overkill that some faster-paced gaming music features. The boss music, specifically when fighting major bosses such as Bowser, is simply incredible. It is an adaptation of the music found in the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess in terms of its "Epic" feeling, mainly through the use of slight vocalizations (not singing) during a track.
And even if a track didn't fit in its place, which if very rare, there's always something to take it's place: remixes. That may be the single best part of Super Mario Galaxy, the classic Mario tune remixes. Super Mario Galaxy features some of the greatest songs from older Mario games, which include songs from Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario 64, and of course, Super Mario Bros. - we can't have the other two without the original! Each song that they took from old games was one of the greatest songs in their respective games, and the remixes are astronomically good.
The remixes are not the only thing retro about Super Mario Galaxy. In fact, there are all kinds of retro references throughout the game, music is just the most notable. There are power ups that are from retro platformers, most notably the ever infamous Fire Flower. There are new costumes such as Bee Mario which come directly from Super Mario Bros. 3, concept wise at least - Smb3 was really the last true game to use multiple suits and such. Unfortunately, some of the new power ups are terrible and do not deserve to be in the game. Truly, there is a deep connection with the great games that came before Super Mario Galaxy, further strengthening its reception.
Unfortunately, not everything is perfect, there are some flaws other than the controls. There's a lack of an overworld, which in the past has been a staple in the Mario series for years. The levels are also questionable in some aspects - there's no real one level that one can say "that level stook out to me more than the rest." There's also no difficulty in terms of a "I need to beat this right now" attitude - there are some stars that will take multiple attempts, but when free lives are literally handed to a player in bunches, it doesn't matter how many times someone takes a fall. There's also no level with a major overworld like area - there's a bit too much planet/object jumping to get in the way of some stars.
All that aside, Super Mario Galaxy is truly a great game, so much so that it is the best platformer since Super Mario Bros. 3, and the best Mario game since Super Mario 64 or Super Mario RPG. It features new things but really brings back the old in an active way. There's all kinds of levels that feature incredible visuals and outstanding audio that has not been seen in a decade.
Finally, there's a Mario game outside the Mario RPG's that brings respect back to the Mario series.
Overall Score: 9.6/10